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November 6th, 2012

Survey: Realtors are confident, but challenges remain

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Fran Images--SoldU.S. housing markets continue to recover, but financing is still difficult for buyers, appraisals often fall short of agreed-upon purchase prices and supplies of for-sale homes are constrained.

Those are but a few of the conclusions found in a recent survey of 3,400 Realtors, who, as a group, remain only moderately optimistic about current housing market conditions.

The “Realtors Confidence Index,” a survey conducted monthly by the National Association of Realtors, aims to gather information about housing markets, home prices and buyers’ and sellers’ interest in home sales, among other issues.

Upside: Home prices rising or stable

On the upside, constrained supplies of for-sale homes appear to have put a floor under what were falling prices.

Approximately 41 percent of the Realtors who completed the survey reported rising prices while another 30 percent reported stable prices compared with the same time period a year ago.

Even more of the Realtors, 88 percent, said they expected prices to remain constant or rise further during in the next 12 months. That suggests the future might offer more opportunities for sellers than has been the case in the last few years.

Another sign of recovery has been a drop in the median number days that for-sale homes have been on the market prior to being sold. The survey has pegged that figure near 70 days since May, a dramatic drop compared with a peak of 101 days three years ago.

Downside: Lack of loans limits sales

On the downside, the Realtors blamed weak mortgage lending for housing’s current woes. Rather than loosening their lending restrictions, banks are taking too long to approve buyer’s loans, requesting more paperwork, and imposing too-tight credit standards, the Realtors said.

The Realtors also expressed concerns about weak job markets, economic problems in Europe, regulatory and political uncertainties due to the presidential election, and the potentially damaging effects of the so-called “fiscal cliff.” All those difficulties could pose challenges for prospective buyers in the near future.

The Realtors also reported fewer business inquiries from sellers compared with buyers, a reflection of limited for-sale inventory, which they attributed to banks’ unwillingness to put large volumes of foreclosed homes immediately up for sale.

“Seller traffic continued to be significantly lower than buyer traffic, reflecting the tight inventory supply as banks continue to release distressed property at a measured pace and sellers apparently wait for prices to pick up further,” said the Realtors.

To learn more about what Realtors across the country are reporting about local market conditions, read our “Real Estate Roundup” for the third quarter.

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HSH.com's daily blog focuses on the latest developments in the mortgage and housing markets. Our mission is to relate how changes in mortgage rates and housing policy, as well as the latest financial news, impacts consumers, homebuyers and industry insiders alike. Our 30-plus years of experience in the mortgage industry gives us an edge as we break down the latest changes in an ever-changing market.

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Tim Manni

Tim Manni is the Managing Editor of HSH.com and the author of their daily blog, which concentrates on the latest developments in the mortgage and housing markets.

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